She must have fallen asleep at some point because the next thing Sarah realized she was slowly coming awake. As the fog of sleep cleared she focused on a tapping sound. Someone was knocking on the door.
"Sarah sweety, did you fall asleep~? We have company coming over shortly and it is time to get up. Do you need a moment before I come in?"
Kadena's voice was nothing but sweet and inviting. Sarah could hardly stand it. Where she came from the only people who talked like that were the ones about to hurt you in one way or another. She sat up and decided she needed to reply even if just to keep the plant off her back. "Come in."
Kadena entered the room, her presence feeling larger than her already considerable size. "Hello cutie. Did you have a nice nap?"
Sarah just scowled back, unable to find civil words. Apparently, her unexpected nap had not improved her mood. The drugs still seemed to be preventing her from being more than a bit upset at the affini and her situation. When did these stupid things wear off?
Kadena stopped at the side of the bed and offered a vine for her to pull herself up with. When Sarah did not take it she retracted the vine and put her hands on her hips. "Awww, did you wake up grumpy? Why don't you come with me and get a snack before our guest arrives."
"Guest!?” Sarah said almost indignantly, finally processing what Kadena had meant by company.
"Yes, you asked for another human to talk to and I found someone that could come over. They should be here in about ten minutes. Would you like to walk to the kitchen or shall I carry you?"
Sarah hesitated then crawled to the edge of the bed. She ignored the offered vine and slid off the side. Of course, she would land poorly again. She started to fall on her ass but a vine caught her and propped her upright. She straightened and stammered in a grumpy voice, "T-thanks."
"You are welcome. I do encourage you to keep moving around. Though your body is still not restored so please do be careful." The affini led the human into the living room.
"It is not my fault that everything is so big," Sarah complained as she begrudgingly accepted help getting into one of the chairs in the kitchen.
"I can get you some step stools or you could complain less about me lifting you. Does some fruit sound tasty or how about some cheese and crackers?"
Kadena gave her a look in response but turned to the compiler. She returned with two trays, each bearing a rainbow of fruit.
Sarah recognized the contents of one tray but the other was foreign to her. "What are those?"
"One of these is from your home planet and the other is fruits from Terra. Do you want to try some out or should I feed you a bit of everything?" Her tone could have been teasing but Sarah was not sure.
Sarah reached for the familiar tray but it was pulled from her reach.
"You may snack without me feeding you but I want you to use your words. Will you do that for me?"
Sarah considered giving up on the fruit but her mouth had already begun to water. She always did have a weakness for sweet citrus. It had been so expensive and difficult to steal. "I want the ones I know," she swallowed hard before finishing with, "Mistress."
Flecks of green rippled across the hammered metal looking Kadena's eyes. Sarah guessed it had something to do with the plant's mood. "Good girl Sarah~." She moved the tray back in front of the girl.
Sarah tried to look like she was only kinda interested in the small feast of flavors in front of her. Again she tried to latch onto anything to distract her from the feelings those words gave her. She forgot to maintain the facade at the first juicy bite of pender fruit. She quickly reached for more, slowing herself a bit in case Kadena wanted to chide her again. The taste of the fruits was just enough that she was able to ignore the feelings she got from being addressed as such.
Kadena seemed content to stand there and watch her pet eat. She only moved to wipe Sarah's face with a cloth napkin when some of the fruit juice dripped down her chin. This also prompted a soft giggle from the plant.
A few minutes later a cheery voice spoke from the room itself. “Hey you two, your guests are here.”
Sarah jumped, almost choking on her last bite, and looked around for the source of the voice.
Kadena giggled again. “No need to worry little one, that is only the hab AI. You can ask if it if you need something and I am unavailable.”
The AI spoke again. “You sure can! I am always here~.” The thing sounded delighted at its job and its own joke. Sarah was confused about which was weirder.
“Please let the guest in,” Kadena said to the AI. The door that Sarah had guessed to be the entrance to the hab opened to reveal an affini and a human. She was able to see nothing but a brief blur of color beyond the two figures in the doorway before it closed.
The affini strolled in while the human bounced with barely contained excitement. The affini’s vines were almost entirely covered by sections of smooth, soft-looking bark. Branches extend backward from some parts of their body with a pattern reminiscent of petrified wood. The human was a girl roughly her own age in appearance. She had short, curly red hair and a mostly green dress that gave her the look of a flower.
"Sarah, please say hello to Branabis Lakar, Tenth Bloom and Kim Lakar, Fifth Floret."
Branabis inclined his head, "you can call me Bran." Kim let out an energetic, "Hiiii!"
Sarah stared for a moment before saying "Hey."
Seeing that Kim was not going to calm down on her own, Branabis snapped off a twig from a section of his branches that were a slightly different color. He held it under Kim's nose and broke it in half. Sarah caught the faint smell of something like rosemary. The effect on the girl was immediate. She transformed from bouncing with lots of energy to relaxed with a placid smile.
Kadena winced. Probably not the best thing for Sarah to see first. Sure enough, the terran turned to scowl at her.
"Is this some more of your drugs in effect? It looks like he just controlled her because he did not like how she was acting."
"It's ok, I like it," Kim said in an almost dreamy voice.
Branabis lifted Kim into a chair next to Sarah. One of his vines selected a piece of fruit and fed it to his pet who ate it like it was the most delicious thing ever. "What you just saw was not xenodrugs but simple scent training. Pure terran physiology. My sweet Kim often prefers a more natural approach in casual situations." He ended up next to Kadena and the two entwined a few vines to be able to talk.
Sarah did not respond and ate another piece of fruit to cover the silence.
Branabis spoke to Kadena in affini. "She does indeed seem quite unhappy. You said she is already on strong class E dose? What has her so troubled?"
"She is still half convinced that she has been kidnapped and everything in front of her is a fabrication to trick her into being controlled."
"You could just show her the ship outside the hab unit."
"I am scared she will get overwhelmed. She is also still not behaving well enough to go out. I don't want her stressing those around her."
"Those almost sound like excuses but I see your point. It would be great if our pets became good friends. I am sure my Kim can help her feel more comfortable."
"So what did you want to talk about?" Kim asked.
Sarah considered her before speaking. "I want to know if this is all real. I can see these aliens in front of me but everything they say is so hard to believe. Can anyone really have crushed the terran armada so easily? Has all of humanity already been defeated?”
Kim let out a chuckle. “It was a lot for me to process and I had over a year. I can’t imagine what it is like to learn this all at once. Yes, the affini took over but they have made everything better. They didn’t really attack the armada, they kinda just stopped it. The only casualties were from terrans doing dumb things like turning on each other. It only took them as long as 3 years because humans were so spread out. A ship smaller than the one we are on could have stopped the fleet single-handedly.”
“So that’s it? Game over? All of humanity will be turned into pet slaves?”
Kim’s cheeks turned a little red. “Oh no! Only like, one in five are domesticated I think. Most are free to go on with their lives if they want as long as they don’t cause trouble. A lot of people are having a hard time with things not being based on money anymore. I thought that was the best thing when I first became a floret, free super healthcare. It’s just normal for them! They actually nag you if you are not taking care of yourself. As for being a s-slave, it kinda fits that definition but it is not a bad thing! You have to follow some rules but after that, you can do what you want. No one I have met has any regrets about becoming a floret.”
Sarah took a moment to absorb the information. Kim was very good at speaking in a tone that was easy to follow. “So what now? Just do as they say? What about my old life?”
Kim opened her mouth but froze. She closed it without a sound as Branabis joined the conversation. “Allow me to provide some context. Kim is aware of your accident and your medical situation in brief terms but she knows nothing of your past life.”
“But you know all about me?” Sarah tried to snap back but her tone came out flat.
“I do. Kadena has given me the details so that I can best offer assistance but it is not my business to share it with others.” He turned to Kim. “Kimmy, all you need to know is that Sarah had a rough life in the past and becoming a floret was the only way she could be safe.”
“Yes, Master.” Kim immediately replied, a slightly dazed look in her eyes. She turned back to Sarah. “So yeah, if we just let them-”
“Hang on.” Sarah interrupted. “You just let yo-”
She was cut off by a vine from Kadena pressed against her lips. “Please do not be rude, little one. If you want to say something then you will do it politely.”
Sarah pushed the vine away but did not speak. She managed a sharp enough glare and Kadena before turning back to Kim. When Sarah said nothing Kim asked. “Did you have a different question or did you want me to answer the last one?”
Sarah huffed a breath as a mockery of a deeper relaxing one. “So you just call him master and never question him? Is he forcing you to do that?”
Kim blushed again and took a moment to choose her words. “Um… the short answer is yes, but only because I want him to! When I became a floret I thought something kinda like you are now, that the affini abused and flaunted their power. Then I found out all the wonderful things that florets can do! Master and I had a lot of talks about how we were going to do things. He had a few firm rules but for the most part it was only stuff we agreed on. In the end, I found I was by far the happiest when we… talked a certain way. But that is a me thing!”
Sarah was not quite sure she understood what Kim was saying and what she did understand, she did not really like. “What if I don’t like the way they do things?”
Kim gave a shrug. “Not really much to do there. They won’t do anything bad to or for you. Everyone is different but if someone is made a floret it is usually because they think they need to fight what is good for them.”
“But who decides what is best?! Where do I get my say?” Sarah was trying really hard not to get upset, sure it would cause Kadena to interject again. The drugs that had been keeping a limit on her emotions seemed to be slowly wearing off.
Kim kept talking unphased. “Again, it is different for everyone. The general impression is that they will prevent you from causing harm, including to yourself. You need to put in the effort or let them keep you fed, clean, and avoid bad habits. Do that and then they will give you plenty of freedom.”
“And if I want to do something they consider a *bad habit?* Is anyone allowed to get drunk anymore?”
Kim gave a shy smile. “For almost anything like that they have something better. Their stuff also doesn't ruin your body. I knew the things we terrans did before were not the best for us but apparently we were shortening our natural life spans by about a hundred years!”
“We are talking in circles,” Sarah said dismissively. “What do I do?”
“For now, work with your affini. You will have to do some rethinking on how you view some things. You will also have to do a lot of thinking about what you want. What did you do before when you were not trying to make money or survive? What did you enjoy? What would you do if everything was free and you didn’t need to profit off all your time? If you do that thinking and answer honestly then I will bet you anything you will be the happiest you have ever been within the week.”
Sarah slouched back in her chair. “And how do I know this is not all the result of some holo trickery or brainwashing drugs? How much of your mind is st-” She was stopped again by a vine from Kadena.
“You appear to be getting upset, my pet. Would you like to take a moment to relax? Maybe it is already nap time for you.”
Sarah pushed her vine away. Her cuffs beeped in warning “You can’t just talk to me like that. I can be a perfectly reasonable person when there isn’t a literal fucking collar around my neck!”
Her cuffs did not have a chance to go off. Kadena snaked a vine forward, its needled end catching Sarah in her arm.
“You can’t jus…” The girl tried to keep shouting but the xenodrugs quickly spread through her, forcing her into a dazed half-sleep.
“I can, my little one. It is time for you to have a nap. We can talk more with your new friends soon.” Kadena carried her to the bed and lay her down.
Sarah could just barely hear her bidding farewell to Branabis and Kim. She was so mad. Drugged and treated like a lesser creature again. She could not take this. Her last thought before slipping into a forced sleep was that her only option was to keep trying to escape.